Google’s Moonshot Factory says Australia needs to ’embrace’ its chance to be a clean energy superpower
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The latest annual World Energy Markets Observatory (WEMO) report for 2021 is out, highlighting and tracking the development of electricity and gas markets in Australia, Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, India and China.
Published by digital transformation and technology consultation firm Capgemini, the report comes in the lead up to the United Nationals Climate Change Conference on October 31 – November 12 in Glasgow, UK and calls for realistic, affordable plans to accelerate the energy transition based on scientific methods to measure company net-zero trajectories.
It said renewable generation capacity increased by 261 GW (+10.3%) in 2020, representing more than 80% of all new electricity capacity added while primary energy demand dropped nearly 4% in 2020.
Global energy-related CO2 emissions fell by around 6%, the largest annual percentage decline since World War II – however due to the global economic recovery, the report emphasised that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are on course to surge by 1.5 billion tonnes in 2021, reversing most of last year’s decline.
WEMO also stated that the growing momentum around green hydrogen has the potential to decarbonise an additional 15% of the world economy and nuclear electricity remains the single largest source of low-carbon generation in advanced economies.
Key Australian specific findings from the WEMO report highlight renewable energy as being responsible for 24% of Australia’s total electricity generation.
The battery storage sector rose to prominence in 2020, with 16 utility scale batteries under construction at the end of 2020 – representing more than 595 GW of new capacity and the National Electricity Market (NEM) saw an overall reduction in operational demand of 6.7%, with South Australia experiencing the biggest reduction of 11.1% and a new record low.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has identified around 22,000 potential pumped hydro energy storage sites around Australia with merit for investigation.
Founded by Google in 2010, X-The Moonshot Factory is an American research and development facility focused on building and launching technologies.
Speaking at the Clean Energy Council (CEC) webinar yesterday vice president Audrey Zibelman said while the technological innovations in Australia are world leading, the nation is lagging on its focus of how to get these innovations to market.
“I think the stuff that is happening in Australia is world leading but we really need to embrace that and give people who are investing and making these great inventions access to the market.”
“Where Australia could be lagging is that it’s not embracing the fact that it could become an energy superpower — we are leading in so many ways, but we aren’t taking advantage of it.”
“I know in the US there is a lot of focus on how to get these technologies to become drivers of the economy.”
Siemens Ltd chairman and chief executive officer Jeff Connolly is another industry leader excited about the prospect of hydrogen.
In his presentation during the CEC webinar, Conolly spoke about a couple things that he is most excited about on the topic of clean energy innovations.
“I can’t go past my excitement at the speed of pick-up of the hydrogen discussion,” he said.
“Siemens has had a hand in convincing several people, including the former chief scientist, to move from being a sceptic on this to being an evangelist because it really does provide a lot of additional opportunities outside of the power generation side such as storage.”
“For a long time, we were talking about storage being a single dimensional battery discussion such as lithium, but the dialogue has moved to say it depends on what problem you’re trying to solve.”
“If you want a low amount of power for a short amount of time then you’re looking at super capacitors or batteries. But if you want to go up the scale and want a huge amount of power for a long period of time then you end up in hydrogen and carbon storage.”
Connolly also noted the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Roadmap to Net Zero 2050 report which he said mentioned “400 milestones to get there” – 400 milestones Australia could be embracing and introducing.
He said: “There is also a recognition that it is not just about power generation it’s about what is happening on the edge and how we get power from one place to another.”
“At Siemens our innovation landscape is largely around data, how to use data, how to get something out of the data – AI, data analytics, digital twins, storage, block chains.”
“All those things existed but we didn’t have the enabling ability to do something with the data and improve so I think that’s exciting, that we have now moved into a space of how to get more out of that information.”